Hiring 101: Evaluating the Candidate

Your business is growing and you’re ready to bring someone aboard to join your team. But the hiring process can be complicated and intimidating. Check out these important things to keep in mind as you attempt to find the perfect candidate.

Good employees can be the most crucial ingredient in a successful business. But finding and hiring good employees can be among the most challenging aspects of running a small or growing company. There are some important things to keep in mind as you set out to add the best-of-the-best to your team.

Know the laws

Numerous federal and state laws govern the various processes of soliciting employees, including advertising, interviewing and hiring. If you don’t follow the rules, you may find yourself as the defendant in a lawsuit over your hiring (or non-hiring) practices.  Or, you may end up being stuck with a very costly and unproductive employee who you have trouble firing.

Employers are subject to many laws requiring equal employment opportunity and prohibiting discrimination in employment, which can include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • Equal Pay Act;
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act;
  • Civil Rights Act of 1966;
  • Immigration Reform and Control Act;
  • American with Disabilities Act; and
  • numerous other federal and state laws.

Don’t even Go there

You probably have many questions that you would like to ask a prospective employee. But certain questions can only get you in trouble (yes, you can trip over many laws in an interview). The following seven questions are examples of questions you should NOT ask:

No.1: How old are you?

No. 2: Do you have any disabilities?

No. 3: Are you pregnant?

No. 4: Are you married with kids?

No. 5: Have you ever been arrested?

No. 6: What is your religious affiliation?

No. 7: What is your sexual orientation?

Focus on questions relating to the skill and experience of the candidates and the qualifications needed to perform the job.

Do your homework

Once you find the “perfect” candidate for the job, you should perform a background and reference check before extending an offer. Ideally the prospective employee will sign your “background check permission form,” which allows you to get reference information from prior employers and even do a credit-check. Before formally requesting information in writing from a prior employer, make sure the prospective employee gives you permission to do so. However, you may find that previous employers are reluctant to give much information, often confirming only the employment, position and maybe salary. (And yes, your company should have a similar policy with respect to your departing employees.)

From a fact-checking perspective, think about checking out school experience (some people embellish their degrees or where they went to school); talk to the candidate’s former supervisor(s), if possible, who may provide more meaningful information than the company’s HR department; for sensitive jobs, check for felony convictions; and verify past employment (ensure the candidate actually worked at each of the companies listed, in the position listed, and check dates of employment).

Stacy is a founding member of BauerGriffith, a business law firm providing high quality legal and business counsel to a wide array of clients, with an emphasis on non-profit organizations, small business and individual planning clients. She serves as outsourced corporate counsel for diverse clients, partnering with executive management to design, plan and implement stated and defined business objectives within legal parameters.
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  • Next up: Hiring 102: 5 Must-Have Items for Your Staffing Toolkit
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  • Hiring 102: 5 Must-Have Items for Your Staffing Toolkit

    There’s a lot to consider, and a lot of information to gather, when your business is seeking new candidates. To make it an easier, more streamlined process, we’re outlining five items you should have in your hiring toolkit.

    In Hiring 101: Evaluating the Candidate, we discussed the hiring laws to be aware of, appropriate questions for interviewing and background information you should seek. Now we’re delving into five specific items you should have on hand and included in your hiring toolkit. 

    Hiring Toolkit Item No. 1: Employment applications

    Think about requiring all prospective employees to complete an employment application. The application solicits a lot of information that will help you decide whether or not to hire the person. However, be careful regarding what is included in the application; remember some questions are illegal to ask. A good employment application asks for the following information:

    • Prior work experience
    • Special skills
    • Educational background
    • Legal right to work in the U.S.
    • Consent for the company to check references

    Attach the prospective employee’s resume to the application and keep these on file. This can be helpful later if, for example, you decide to fire an employee after discovering he/she lied about the information on the employment application form.

    Hiring Toolkit Item No. 2: Offer letters and mistakes to avoid

     When you find the applicant who seems to meet your needs, you are ready to make an offer. Although you can do this over the phone, it is better practice to put it in writing to avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding. Include the following items:

    • Position and duties
    • Start date
    • Compensation
    • Employment-at-will status
    • Various other legal provisions to protect you and your company

    Be careful not to mislead the applicant or promise something you can’t deliver. For example, avoid statements that give the applicant a false sense of security, or what might be construed as a long-term promise of employment. Stay away from phrases such as “We expect you will have a long and prosperous career here,” “You can expect your salary to increase by X% each year,” and “After a probationary period, you will enjoy the benefits the company provides to its long-term employees.” Also avoid offering different benefits to an applicant than those available to other employees. Your current employees may see this as discriminatory and take action accordingly.

    If you intend to offer stock or stock options, make sure it vests, or is earned, after some significant period of continued employment. If you plan to offer a commission, bonus or profit-sharing arrangement, make sure the percentage or amount is reasonable and does not make the employee unprofitable for your business.

    Hiring Toolkit Item No. 3: Employment agreements

     Employment agreements are not necessary for most employees, though you may want some high-level employees to sign one. A well drafted employment agreement will cover the following items:

    • Job position and whether the employer has the right to change the position
    • Length of the agreement
    • Salary, bonus and benefits
    • Whether the employee gets stock or stock options
    • When the employer can terminate the employee for good cause, along with a definition of what good cause means
    • When the employer can terminate the employee without good cause and what severance payments the employer will provide
    • Job responsibilities
    • Confidentiality obligations
    • Where and how disputes will be handled

    Hiring Toolkit Item No. 4: Confidentiality and invention assignment agreements

     Your employees, especially in high-tech businesses, have access to a lot of the company’s confidential information. In addition, you expect your employees to come up with ideas, work product and inventions that are useful to your business. To ensure your employees keep the company’s proprietary information confidential, you should require them to sign a confidentiality agreement. Either as part of the confidentiality agreement or as its own agreement, your employees should also acknowledge and agree that the ideas, work product and inventions they come up with belong to the company, not them. The following key provisions should be included:

    • The employee cannot use any of the company’s confidential information for his/her own benefit or use.
    • The employee will promptly disclose to the company any inventions, ideas, discoveries and work product related to the company’s business made during the period of employment, and that the company is the owner of such inventions, ideas, discoveries and work product.
    • His/her employment with the company does not breach any agreement or duty he/she has with anyone else, nor can he/she disclose to the company or use on its behalf any confidential information belonging to others.
    • The confidentiality provisions will continue after his/her termination of employment.
    • The agreement does not represent any guarantee of continued employment.

    Hiring Toolkit Item No. 5: New employee paperwork

     When a new employee joins the company, make sure to have all the appropriate paperwork ready for him or her to sign, preferably on day one, including the following:

    • Company employee handbook
    • IRS forms
    • Benefit elections
    • Confidentiality and invention assignment agreement
    • Form I-9
    • Emergency notification

    Hiring new employees can be an often arduous and sometimes unexpected process. Knowing that you have these items accessible and ready to go will help the situation seem less intimidating and will ensure that your company is operating at full capacity as soon as possible.

    Stacy is a founding member of BauerGriffith, a business law firm providing high quality legal and business counsel to a wide array of clients, with an emphasis on non-profit organizations, small business and individual planning clients. She serves as outsourced corporate counsel for diverse clients, partnering with executive management to design, plan and implement stated and defined business objectives within legal parameters.

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  • Next up: COSE WebEd Series:Hiring and Attracting Talent
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  • COSE WebEd Series:Hiring and Attracting Talent

    From an enticing headline to a perfectly worded job description to the expert delivery of your ad, CareerBoard President Richard Padgett explains how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to writing job ads.

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  • Next up: Part 2: Hiring the Best Sales Talent: Lessons from the NFL Draft
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  • Part 2: Hiring the Best Sales Talent: Lessons from the NFL Draft

    Adding to your sales team with people who are the perfect fit can be challenging. In the conclusion of this two-part series we continue to explore the seven objectives to effectively recruiting and hiring for your business.

    In the first part of this two-part series, we covered three specific objectives needed to create a proven recruiting, hiring and induction system.

    Objective No. 1: Win the talent war to achieve your growth goals.

    Objective No. 2: Develop a sales candidate profile that guides your interview team.

    Objective No. 3: Attract and recruit a large pool of applicants to improve your chances of finding the right person.

    Here’s a look back at Part 1.

    The remaining four steps must help you find the best candidates who can do the sales job and meet your business growth expectations.

    So, back to the NFL for a minute: Imagine yourself as the director of player personnel and you have completed all the steps for a successful NFL draft. All of your competitors are represented in the room. National TV crews, analysts and sports media are everywhere. The first-round candidates and families are in the “Green Room.” Loyal fans are in the room dressed and ready to go. Your Draft Room is manned and ready back at the team facility.

    Everyone—owners, management, existing players, the press and fans—are all ready to give their immediate critique of each and every pick made that first night.

    Now you and your team must evaluate, screen/sort and prioritize many talented candidates who have applied for your sales opportunity. The best hiring processes use a score sheet with a profile that details the proven skills, attitude and behaviors that fit your needs.

    During your version of a “Combine” or “Pro Day,” the “Score Sheet” guides each interviewer as they grade the skills, competencies, traits and characteristics you desire.

    Your disciplined interview process needs to help win the talent war and take the best candidate “off the market.”

    Now that you’re caught up. Let’s move on to Objective No. 4.

    Objective no. 4: Conduct out-of-the-box interviews, assessments and ranking

    If you are going after the best talent your business needs, your assessment and interview process needs to help you find the best talent you can afford. The hiring process will never be perfect but needs to be rigorous enough to give you the level of confidence that your selection actually can do the job you require.

    The interview process must go beyond the resume, LinkedIn profile and background check. This is not about how well they can sell to you, it is about how well they are willing to successfully sell for you. You must uncover how a candidate behaves in the real life situations your team faces. The challenge is to find the ones who will sell and win for you.

    Your interview process and team must help assess and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. It may not be practical to recreate real-life situations but think about past business trips and coaching rides with sales people. What did you learn, what did you like and what concerned you during these trips? 

    On your score sheet, your team needs to assess the required level of skills, experience and behaviors that fit your needs and allow them to be successful after initial training.

    Interviewers should uncover the candidate’s skills and experience to determine if the person is “ready for Prime Time” in the role you desire. The interviewers must also uncover some unique advantages the candidate brings that you can leverage to your benefit. Consider the following questions:

    • Do they have the intelligence and creativity—how smart are they in real-world situations? How do they solve complex problems in chaotic environments? Do they display strong character, integrity and work ethic? Do they act and behave as a leader without title or position? Are they humble and self-aware and take responsibility to lead and make timely decisions where they are while challenging others to achieve desired results?
    • In business, professional and social situations are they prepared to and capable of taking advantage of opportunities we present now and in the future? Can you rely on their proven background of respect, values, behaviors, personality and ability to fit into your culture? Do they have potential to take on increased responsibility in the future?
    • Are they dependable? Can you trust them to make good decisions? Are they dedicated to the craft and profession? Do they show up prepared and ready and are open to feedback, coaching and change?
    • Are they tough and resilient? Do they have the competitive intensity you need when they have to think on their feet in unfamiliar or stressful situations?

    Objective no. 5: Develop a short list of qualified applicants to anticipate your offer conversion percentages.

    As the interviews progress, do you have enough qualified applicants to begin to make decisions? Do any of the candidates bring benefits you had not considered? Did you learn anything about your compensation and benefits that needs to be resolved? Do you have to continue recruiting?

    Objective no. 6: Prepare your “Draft Day” board to make the offer. Assess and screen your short list of applicants to make sure that you’re making an appropriate match. Who is number 1? Develop your list of the best available talent and prepare for the offers, some rejections and the negotiations and acceptance.

    Objective no. 7: Finalize the acceptance and onboarding.

    Good news! Your offer has been accepted and now it is time for a successful transition.

    A successful onboarding program helps everyone get off to a great start and succeed in their assigned role. This is an opportunity to ensure new employees are aware of the company’s expectations and the tangible and intangible benefits that are available to them. Topics include:

    • An introduction to the company and its policies, benefits and benefit resources available to them, including job specific training and career development
    • An introduction to the culture, values and history of the company and the industry
    • A tailored and rapid development agenda to get them “ready for Prime Time” and set them up to achieve early success
    • Employee and department performance expectations, including the importance of the culture, respect for customers, vendors and each other in the workplace

    Congratulations! You hired a well screened person that fits your needs. Your talent recruiting and hiring process helped you win this part of the talent war. A disciplined and well-executed hiring process can help you transform your company and take it levels you did not dream.

    Wayne Bergman is a business and executive coach and founder of Consistent Business Growth. Questions or comments about this piece? 

    Email him directly at wayne@cbgrowth-gfm.com

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  • Next up: Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month: How an Eye Exam Could Save Your Life
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  • Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month: How an Eye Exam Could Save Your Life

    The month of November is Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month, the perfect reminder to schedule a comprehensive eye exam if you haven’t done so already. One of the most common misconceptions about eye exams is that they’re only testing your sight, but getting annual comprehensive eye exams is an important part of preventive health care. Here’s why it’s so important.

    Can you detect diabetes through an eye exam? 

    A routine eye exam has the potential to detect signs of life-threatening, chronic diseases early on—but only if patients make sure to keep going in regularly.

    Often the early stages of diabetic eye disease have no noticeable symptoms. Fortunately, with regular eye examinations, your eye doctor can be the first to detect the warning signs that point to diabetes and other diabetes-related eye problems. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) shows 30.3 million people have diabetes in the U.S., however, roughly 8.1 million people are walking around undiagnosed, untreated, and unmonitored. The great news is, detecting changes in your eyes early can give you a better chance at preventing damage through early treatment and management. According to CDC, about 90 percent of diabetes-related vision loss can be prevented.

    How exactly do eye doctors spot signs of diabetes before patients can tell they have it?

    By dilating the pupils, optometrists have a unique and unobstructed view of the tiny, fragile blood vessels that feed the retina on the back of the eye. Diabetes causes spikes in blood sugar that weaken and damage blood vessels over time, a symptom that often shows up first in the swelling, leaking, and bleeding of capillaries in the retina. The damage accumulates over time and can lead to loss of vision.

    Those miniscule but significant changes can be detected in a noninvasive eye exam years before other signs of diabetes finally drive someone to see a doctor, by which time the disease can be advanced and treatment options much more limited (and expensive).

    Even in patients already diagnosed with diabetes, annual eye exams are enormously important to preventing blindness. As the American Diabetic Association website notes, the sooner diabetic retinopathy is diagnosed, the more likely treatment will be successful. “Retinopathy in the advanced stages is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness,” explains Dr. Justin Bazan, a VSP Network Eye Doctor and medical advisor to The Vision Council. “And that is an important term. ‘Preventable’ means that if you had tighter control of the disease you wouldn’t end up with total vision loss.”

    Patients are more likely to visit an optometrist than their primary care doctor, since eye exams are relatively brief and non-invasive. “When people have vision benefits, they want to use them. It’s one of the most utilized health benefits,” explains Bazan. “People should go to the eye doctor every year to make sure everything is in good shape. “There’s a close connection between ocular health and general health. Our eyes are windows to our entire vascular and nervous system.”

    So, make that all-important appointment with your VSP Premier Program Provider today.

    Make your vision health a priority. If you haven’t already, take advantage of your COSE member benefit and opt-in to VSP Vision Insurance. Contact your COSE sales representative or broker for more info.

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  • Next up: How COSE Members Save Money with a Medical Mutual Health Savings Account
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  • How COSE Members Save Money with a Medical Mutual Health Savings Account

    As an employer, you want to provide quality health insurance packages to your employees that don’t break the bank. Medical expenses such as deductibles, prescriptions and coinsurance can add up quickly and be quite costly even for individuals and families in good health. A Medical Mutual Health Savings account (HSA) paired with an HSA-compatible health benefit could be a good solution. This option provides your employees with access to an account that will help them prepare and save on both expected and unexpected medical costs. HSAs allow for your employees to deposit money, spend it on qualified medical expenses and invest their HSA balances for triple tax benefits.  

    Whether you’re enrolled in the COSE Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA) or an Affordable Care Act (ACA) plan, offering a tax-advantaged savings account specifically for your employees’ medical needs could increase your employee satisfaction and retention without any additional charge to you.

    Once you request a Medical Mutual HSA account for your organization, your employees can enjoy the following benefits:

    1. Simplified employee enrollment process – Once your employees are enrolled in their HSA-compatible health plan, they can easily open their HSA through My Health Plan, our secure member website. 

    2. Medical Mutual HSA debit card – Upon the account being opened, a Medical Mutual debit card will be mailed to your employee which connects them to any money that has been deposited into their HSA account. This provides a convenient way for employees to pay for qualified medical expenses, such as doctors’ visits, prescriptions and more.  Once balances exceed $1,000, employees will have the option to invest their HSA balances.

    3. Full access 24/7 – No matter what time of day, employees have online access to their HSA account and health benefits through My Health Plan. After logging in, they’ll be able to track HSA and investment balances, pay for qualified medical expenses, report/reissue a lost or stolen debit card and manage investments.  As an added convenience, employees can also use our app, AccountLink, to manage their HSA account. 

    4. Local Customer Care support – By linking our healthcare benefits and our HSA, your employees can get help from our local Customer Care team trained to answer product questions with just one call.

    5. Employer contribution opportunities – As an employer, you can choose to set up a program where you match employee contributions or reward employees for wellness activities by depositing a set dollar amount to their HSA account. This incentive could help increase contentment among your employees and promote healthy behaviors. 

    For more information on Medical Mutual HSA account options, contact your broker or your Medical Mutual Sales representative.  

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